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Amending the Constitution

If it doesn't fit anywhere else, it fits here

Amending the Constitution

Postby nutria » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:25 pm

Preface to this thread: NOT about guns.

In another thread, FDD posted this (emphasis mine):

Francis Di Domizio wrote:
snoqueen wrote:Women couldn't vote in national elections until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920. So, if our original constitution implied a right to vote, that right in actuality extended to less than half the population in the beginning and was not affirmatively stated.

More evidence the original form of the constitution was imperfect and incomplete and has needed updating from time to time.


Woman's suffrage didn't come about through a change in the legal interpretation of the Constitution but by drafting and ratifying an amendment to change it's meaning. Despite the large numbers supporting new gun control legislation, no similar push has been made to amend the second. Are gun control activists unwilling to go through that process or just realize that support for that type of change just isn't there yet?


This gave me a thought -- how likely are we to see a constitutional amendment on anything in the foreseeable future? I have a hard time seeing that happen anytime soon, for a few reasons:

1. The last one ratified was the 27th, and it is fairly inconsequential in most Americans' day-to-day lives (congressional pay raises). The last one you can point to affecting you directly was the 26th (18 years old to vote), and that was in 71. Assuming you have to be a teenager to be aware enough of the process, nobody under the age of 60 or so has been engaged in the ratification of a substantive amendment. Maybe a fairly large chunk of the population doesn't see it as something you can do, because they've never seen it done?

(Of course, there have been a few failed ones since then (Equal Rights and voting rights for DC residents), but change the age from ~60 to ~50, and the same argument applies.)

2. This works in concert with 1. The rhetoric describing the Constitution and its framers has taken on real religious undertones recently. While the specific words don't get used, it is not an uncommon mindset to deify Washington, Jefferson, etc. In that vein, the Constitution is treated as an immutable, perfect document handed down by a metaphysical creator, rather than words penned by mortals. The same voters and legislators who would have to put in the effort to change the Constitution would never think of amending the Bible.

3. Given the partisan battle lines drawn today, are we ever going to see something that enough people would agree on? The bar to amend is set high (and it should be), and we can't get simple votes on judicial nominees.

I dunno, I hadn't really though about this at all until 10 minutes ago, so maybe there is something obvious I'm missing. Are there any fundamental issues today an amendment could solve? I suspect abolishing the electoral college could have huge popular support, with the right PR. Given that one of the country's two main political parties would thereafter never win a national election, I doubt it would ever have the support at the congressional level it would need. (And this has been proposed and died at least once.)

So whaddya say, TDPF? What do YOU think?
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby green union terrace chair » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:42 pm

According to this wikipedia article, on average 200 constitutional amendments get proposed every session (over 11,000 since 1789!). Out of that, only 33 were passed by Congress and sent to the states, of which only 27 were ratified.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pr ... nstitution

What would you add? What would you change?

Scroll down on that page for a fun list of amendments that were proposed but never sent to the states, as well as a few still awaiting ratification (including some from the 18th and 19th centuries).
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby Igor » Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:17 pm

I could see some sort of minor thing along the lines of the pay raise thing coming along. But probably nothing major.

I think there are only parts of the constitution that get the rhetoric and fanatical devotion. In some cases, it isn't even the Constitution itself, but subsequent judicial rulings that people latch on to as immutable truths. In particular, I would say that the establishment clause of the 1st, the 2nd, and the 10th have diverged pretty dramatically from the probable intent of the framers.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby Detritus » Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:22 pm

I'd be happy to see the second amendment repealed, and some form of the ERA ratified.

I'd love to see something like Article 9 of the Japanese constitution put into place.

I'm not holding by breath over here, in case you're wondering.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby penquin » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:42 pm

There is a push to repeal the 16th, and that one might actually happen if the FairTax starts getting some traction.

I've been in favor of the Congressional Apportionment Amendment (which was actually the first amendment that was proposed to the Constitution) since I first heard about it. Basically, each Congressperson in the House would be representing no more than 50,000 people...resulting in a much larger House of Representatives than we currently have.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby fisticuffs » Fri Jun 21, 2013 7:50 am

penquin wrote:There is a push to repeal the 16th, and that one might actually happen if the FairTax starts getting some traction.

I've been in favor of the Congressional Apportionment Amendment (which was actually the first amendment that was proposed to the Constitution) since I first heard about it. Basically, each Congressperson in the House would be representing no more than 50,000 people...resulting in a much larger House of Representatives than we currently have.


Is that sponsored by the Lobby to keep Redistricting Lawyers employed? It does sound like a fun idea. We do have a few more people in the country today than when this system was put in place.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby snoqueen » Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:19 am

The constitution of modern South Africa (1997) is considered one of the most progressive anywhere.

http://www.info.gov.za/documents/constitution/index.htm

Here's a shortcut to their Bill of Rights:

http://www.info.gov.za/documents/consti ... 6cons2.htm

For instance, the amendment for Health Care, Food, Water, and Social Security reads:


Everyone has the right to have access to ­
health care services, including reproductive health care;
sufficient food and water; and

social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependants, appropriate social assistance.

The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of each of these rights.

No one may be refused emergency medical treatment.


That, and much of the rest of the document, makes the US and its legislators look positively shameful.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby wack wack » Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:28 am

I think regular Constitutional Conventions should be required by law. If nothing changes, fine, but we as a nation should actively consider the Constitution on a regular basis, and not just by screaming at each other through the media.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby Francis Di Domizio » Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:55 am

That's actually not a bad idea Wack Wack. I'd even suggest that the convention would be required to vote on any proposed amendment that reached a certain level of citizen support and if it passes require a vote in the House. Maybe even bypass the convention and require the House to vote if there is support in excess of 50% of the voting population at the time of the last census.

To address the OP, I don't think amending the constitution is a thing of the past, but I do think that there won't be anymore huge controversial changes. I can see changing the requirments to hold federal office, or the way we apportion and elect our representitives. I can't see the popular support being present for an amendment that does more than change political procedure and rules.

I doubt we will ever see any of the Bill of Rights repealed.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby TAsunder » Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:07 am

In the article linked by green union terrace chair, the only amendment I strongly support is the one guaranteeing a right to vote. Perhaps I don't understand some legal issue there, but it seems like a no-brainer to me.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby green union terrace chair » Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:10 pm

penquin wrote:There is a push to repeal the 16th, and that one might actually happen if the FairTax starts getting some traction.

I've been in favor of the Congressional Apportionment Amendment (which was actually the first amendment that was proposed to the Constitution) since I first heard about it. Basically, each Congressperson in the House would be representing no more than 50,000 people...resulting in a much larger House of Representatives than we currently have.

You want a 6,000-seat House of Representatives?? China's National People's Congress is just under 3,000 and that's for a population 4x ours.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby Detritus » Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:24 pm

green union terrace chair wrote:
penquin wrote:There is a push to repeal the 16th, and that one might actually happen if the FairTax starts getting some traction.

I've been in favor of the Congressional Apportionment Amendment (which was actually the first amendment that was proposed to the Constitution) since I first heard about it. Basically, each Congressperson in the House would be representing no more than 50,000 people...resulting in a much larger House of Representatives than we currently have.

You want a 6,000-seat House of Representatives?? China's National People's Congress is just under 3,000 and that's for a population 4x ours.

You have a point. The resulting House would be much less productive than the current one.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby Stebben84 » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:17 pm

Put in place term limits for the House and Senate.
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby fisticuffs » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:20 pm

Stebben84 wrote:Put in place term limits for the House and Senate.


I disagree with this. It doesn't solve the problem. if nothing else it expedites the exodus to private sector lobbying gigs. Term limits would make it easier to buy our government. I also think people tend to get better at jobs the longer they do them, well most people anyways. Why would we want to get rid of good experienced legislators?
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Re: Amending the Constitution

Postby Henry Vilas » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:39 pm

The trouble with convening a constitutional convention is that it could propose changes to any part of the Constitution. And the difficulty of passing individual amendments is that in recent years, time limits for ratification were included (thus the proposed ERA amendment is dead). Prior to those time limits, proposed amendment stay on the table until enough states ratify them (such as the 27th Amendment, which was ratified over 200 years after being proposed).
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